From the beginning of June to July and August, those looking east and southeast in the evenings will surely notice a bright orange "star" glowing in steady light. Many will doubtless wonder what this object is. "Certainly," many will think, "nothing so bright and colorful was here before obvious." Where did it come from? "
Actually, this is not a star, but a planet: Mars. So far this year, the Red Planet has only been visible to early birds, and although it was bright, it was not exceptional. But with every passing night, Mars got up a little earlier and got a bit closer to the earth.
And this summer will be an extremely promising opportunity for the famous Red Planet. At the end of July, Mars will be closer to Earth than it has been since 2003. The planet will be in opposition to the Sun on July 27, meaning that it will face the Sun in the Earth's heavens only 51
On this day, the Red Planet will fire -2.8 – twice as bright as Jupiter, but darker than Venus. (Lower amounts are brighter.) If you look through a telescope with an enlargement of the eyepiece, the disc of Mars will appear with the naked eye as large as the disk of the moon.
Atmospheric instability will be a problem
However, Mars will be far south if it is the best. it will be in the constellation of Capricorn, the Sea Goat, with a declination of -25.8 degrees. Therefore, observers in northern latitudes will never see the planet very high in the sky, so atmospheric turbulence will affect vision more than usual.
Indeed, for observers in most of the United States, Mars will be so deep in the sky to obstruct telescoping work , When the planet crosses the meridian and reaches its highest point in the sky, the altitude of Mars above the southern horizon will be just 1:30 in the morning, only 23 degrees from Chicago and 30 degrees from Los Angeles.
Remember that your clenched fist, which is held at arm's length, is about 10 degrees wide. For Skywatcher in most of the US, Mars will not appear higher than two or three "fists" above the horizon.
Conversely, observers in South America, South Africa, and Australia are offered exceptional views, as the planet will almost sweep over us. [Previewing 2018’s Year of Spectacular Mars Using Mobile Apps]
South Pole Seems To Shrink
The Mars telescope disk will have at least 14 arc seconds of diameter for nearly five months from May 24 to October 13 – larger than such an extension since 1965.
Up On Mars, this time corresponds exactly to the arrival of autumn (May 22) and winter (October 16) in the northern hemisphere of the planet and spring and summer in its southern hemisphere. Mars has seasons like Earth's, but they are almost twice as long. Since the Mars South Pole is inclined to the earth from now on through the remainder of 2018, the South Pole cap is presented excellently to us. In June, the typical winter cloak of the clouds over the polar region should dissolve, so that the South Chapel shines brilliantly and undergoes spectacular changes during their fast spring thawing.
So, if May fades, the cap will be nearly full and subsequent seasonal shrinkage will most likely follow. During this time, many interesting and sometimes surprising seasonal changes take place on Mars.
Exploring and Recording the Martian Landscape
Around the time when Mars is closest, even a 3-inch telescope can show dark markings on its small, red disc as well as the bright white of the Polar lid. However, for visual observations of this planet, a telescope with an aperture of at least 6 inches is usually recommended; Magnifications of 150 to 200 can offer the best prospects. If you have a 10- to 12-inch telescope (25 to 30 cm), a power of 250 to 300 is recommended. You can then follow the dark markings of the planet, the south pole cap, clouds and fog.
Some astronomers believed that the dark surface markings of the red planet were vegetation, but space probes in the 1960s and 1970s revealed the markings as vast expanses of rock and dust. Windstorms sometimes move the dust, causing seasonal and long-term changes.
Those conducting systematic observations can provide useful information about the weather and surface conditions of Mars. If you are interested, you can turn to ALPO – the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers – which has a special observation area for Mars.
If you're a beginner, even a big telescope will show little when you look at Mars for the first time. But as you examine the planet night after night, your eye will gradually get used to the low contrasts and soft boundaries of the spots on its disk. You will soon become familiar with the rotation of Mars, which causes markers to move from right to left, as seen in an astronomical telescope with a reversed field from an observer looking to the south. As a result, a certain property comes about 40 minutes later in the center of the Martian disk than the previous night.
Regardless of how you plan to observe Mars in the coming weeks – either with a telescope or just with your eyes – it will turn out to be an eye-catching object that even attracts the attention of the most casual sky watchers.
Truly, this will be the summer of Mars!
Joe Rao is a lecturer and guest lecturer at the New York Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for the Natural History Magazine, the Farmer's Almanac and other publications and he is also a meteorologist in front of the camera for Verizon Fios1 News, based in Rye Brook, New York. Follow us @SpaceTotcom Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.